Health experts, LGU officials express support for Bong Go’s filed bills to strengthen healthcare system amid COVID-19 pandemic
During a Senate health committee hearing on Tuesday, May 26, the Department of Health and Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines have expressed their support for bills filed by Senator and Chair of the Committee on Health and Demography Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go which seek to strengthen the country’s healthcare system.
Some of the bills tackled include measures seeking to improve the process in increasing the bed capacity of the government hospitals, address the lack of quarantine facilities, establishment of sub-national laboratories and to strengthen the country’s disease surveillance and epidemiologic investigation system, among others.
During the hearing, Quirino Governor and ULAP President, Dakila Carlo E. Cua, expressed agreement with the proposed measures, saying that ULAP fully supports the empowerment of the DOH to increase bed capacity of hospitals in the country.
The ULAP President also expressed support to President Rodrigo Duterte’s and Senator Go’s call to help overseas Filipino workers during these times of pandemic.
“Dapat po natin sila tulungan. We are doing our best to accommodate and welcome home our new age heroes, our OFWs,” Cua said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also stated similar support to further empower the national and local governments in dealing with public health emergencies.
He added that he also supports measures which seek to complement the number and protect health professionals from occupational threats associated with their job.
Also, League of Provinces of the Philippines President and Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Velasco, Jr. also expressed support for the bills. Health experts from the Association of Municipal Health Officers of the Philippines, the Philippine Hospital Association, Philippine Medical Association, Philippine Alliance of Patient Organization, and the National Privacy Commission, among others, also manifested their support for the proposed measures.
Among Go’s filed bills, Senate Bill (SB) 1226, or the proposed DOH Hospital Bed Capacity and Service Capability Rationalization Act, aims to authorize the Department of Health to increase the bed capacity and service capability of its retained hospitals and to allow it to promulgate evaluation and approval guidelines.
During the hearing, Go lamented the poor hospital bed-to-population ratio of the country, saying that “general hospital beds to the population was one is to 1,142, exceeding the ideal ratio of one is to 1,000.”
He added that DOH hospitals are constrained by the lack of adequate staffing, maintenance and operating resources to fully provide the quality of health care that their patients deserve.
Go also filed SB 1259 or the “Mandatory Quarantine Facilities Act of 2020” which mandates the establishment of quarantine facilities in every region in the country.
According to Go, quarantine mechanisms are a long-established public health strategy in order to prevent transmission and should be part of the standard precautions that should be taken to prevent the spread of any infectious disease.
“Nakita naman po natin na ginagawa ng gobyerno ang lahat para rumesponde sa krisis. Nagtayo agad ng quarantine facilities sa iba’t ibang lugar gamit ang available infrastructure na meron na tayo,” Go said.
“Pero kung mayroon na tayong nakahandang pasilidad para sa ganitong mga krisis o sakuna, mas mabilis at mas mabisa nating mapoprotektahan ang kalusugan ng kapwa nating Pilipino. The proposed measures filed aim to address this need and establish quarantine facilities all throughout the country,” he added.
The Senator also seeks to strengthen the country’s efforts in disease surveillance and epidemiologic investigation. SB 1528 filed by Go intends to amend Republic Act 11332, also known as the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.”
Go cited several key areas that need amendments during the hearing including changes addressing the lack of sub-national laboratories; mandating the establishment of hotlines where the public can report a public health concern; and mandating the assistance of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the conduct of contact tracing, among others.
Meanwhile, Secretary Duque also admitted that the Philippines’ testing capacity in view of the coronavirus pandemic is the “number one weakness” in the country’s health system.
According to the health chief, there is a need to increase the number of sub-national laboratories to ramp up the country’s testing capacity.
Ending the hearing, Go acknowledged the need to improve the country’s capacity in addressing pandemics like COVID-19.
“We hope that the measures we have discussed today will address some of our weaknesses and gaps in handling public health emergencies,” Go said.
“Let the pandemic be a lesson to all of us and use this experience to improve our health system,” he added.